02 SES 08 B, Transitions: Teachers' Learning at Work
Vocational training not only creates opportunities for students to participate in the labour market, but also helps to develop qualities, skills and traits that are desirable in the workplace and based on prevailing ideals (Dahlstedt & Olson, 2013; Köpsén 2014). However, as Bourdieu and Passeron (2008) point out, these ideals tend to preserve the hierarchies in work and society. What knowledge and skills become available to vocational students, and what professional identities are encouraged in them, largely depend on the expectations and the teaching the students encounter during their training (Wenger 1998; Korp, 2012). In vocational training, the teachers are central carriers of the vocational knowing and culture that the students are going to be part of (Köpsén, 2014). The vocational teachers should base their teaching on the learning objectives defined in the national curriculum, but they also need to adapt to changing needs and conditions in their field (Robson, Bailey & Larkin, 2004). As Englund (1997) points out, there is great potential for variation in each teacher’s interaction with students, where factors such as personal experiences, values and ideals, as well as former employment, serve as the foundation.
The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse which underlying ideas and ideals regarding students and their future vocational knowing emerge from teachers’ descriptions of challenges. We assume that the teachers’ conceptions of the students and what they should know act as a basis for how the teachers view their own work and, consequently, what they perceive as challenges. Many categories of teachers can probably identify with the description of challenges, although some challenges may be bound to the context of teaching in the health and social care programme. Our intention is not to neglect the actual challenges the teachers experience and have to deal with in their work, but our interest is mainly focused on what their descriptions reveal about their conceptions of students and their vocational knowing.
From a social constructionist perspective (Burr, 2003; Barlebo Wennberg, 2001), different tasks can be said to not only be socially and culturally constructed, but also indications of position and status. In order to detect these aspects of power, we have been inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical concepts and perspectives. The foundation of Bourdieu’s theoretical argument is that actions, thoughts, conceptions, and values are the result of a meeting between people’s habitus and specific social contexts. Habitus refers to a “system of dispositions that allows people to act, think, and navigate within the social world” (Broady, 1998:3). These dispositions are embedded in us as individuals in an automated fashion and influence our taste as well as the way we see, think, and understand the world. The habitus that arises in the early years characterises individuals, although the habitus may partially change through participation in new contexts, such as an educational or work setting. Bourdieu (1984) argued that working conditions and environments may contribute to the creation of a fairly homogeneous habitus among colleagues, as they have a structuring effect on habitus. In our study, this means that we want to highlight which dispositions students are expected to acquire in order to be regarded as “good” nursing assistants, and which ones they are not expected to acquire. Our use of the term vocational habitus thus relates to health care teachers’ conceptions of desirable vocational knowing, not the actual habitus of individuals. The concept of capital is closely related to habitus, and Bourdieu uses the term symbolic capital for what is considered valuable to a certain group (Bourdieu, 1998).
Barlebo Wennberg, Soren (2001). Socialkonstruktivism – positioner, problem och perspektiv. Stockholm: Liber. Bourdieu, Pierre (1984). Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge. Bourdieu, Pierre (1998). Practical reason on the theory of action. Oxford: Polity. Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron (1990). Reproducation in education, society and culture. London: Sage. Broady, Donald (1998). Kapitalbegreppet som utbildningssociologiskt verktyg. [The concept of capital as an educational-sociological tool] Uppsala: Forskningsgruppen för utbildnings- och kultursociologi, ILU, Uppsala universitet. Burr, Vivien (2003). Social constructionism. London and New York: Routledge. Dahlstedt, Magnus, and Maria Olson (2013). Utbildning, demokrati, medborgarskap. [Education, democracy and citizenship]. Malmö: Gleerups. Englund, Tomas (1997).”Towards a dynamic analysis of content of schooling: narrow and broad didactics in Sweden.” Journal of Curriculum Studies, 29, (3); 267-287. Korp, Helena (2012). ”Identitetserbjudanden och lärare-elevrelationen.” [Identity and the teacher-student relationship] In Lärare och lärande i yrkesprogram och introduktionsprogram [Teachers and learning in vocational education] edited by Ingrid Henning Loeb and Helena Korp, 95-112. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Köpsén, Susanne (2014).”How vocational teachers describe their vocational teacher identity.” Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 66 (2):194-221. Robson, Jocelyn, Bill Bailey, and Shirley Larkin (2004). “Adding Value: investigating the discourse of professionalism adopted by vocational teachers in further education colleges.” Journal of Education and Work, 17 (2): 183-195 Watt Boolsen, Merete (2007). Kvalitativa intervjuer. Forskningsprocess, människa, samhälle. Malmö: Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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